Viewpoint: When is Too Much? The Negative Effects of Technology

 

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Gramophone                        Record Player                           Phonograph

They watched movies, usually black and white, with VCRs and Video Cassettes.

old-tv AG1980

Cell phones did no exist, only house phones. The Internet was non-existent and computers had not entered the market.

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Typical house phone from the 1950s.

In 1966, the fax machine entered the market. I remember my dad still recalling the day his family got their first fax machine. The entire family’s jaws dropped and eyes widened, as my grandfather sent faxes to his parents in Germany. “We couldn’t comprehend how it happened; sending a picture from North America to Europe in a matter of seconds, we were baffled,” my father explained.

It’s been forty-three years since that event, my father, along with his siblings, each own Blackberry’s, which as most people know, have email, Internet, camera, a navigation system, and many other capabilities.

There is no doubt that technology has advanced the most in this half-century then it ever has. Technology has provided extraordinary improvements to our world; being an endless source of entertainment, bridging communication anywhere at anytime, increasing the accessibility of opportunities, and a whole lot more. However, technology has also had negative effects on society. It has decreased the need for social interaction, contributed to damaging the environment, and had harmful effects on our health. As technology continues to advance at such a rapid pace these problems are escalating. Technology was originally designed to make our lives easier and to make them more enjoyable. Yet, as technology continues to advance, our social health, physical health, and environment continue to worsen.

Social interaction is a fundamental human need. This has been recognized in many studies, theories, and models; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Developmental Psychology, David McClelland’s Theory of Needs, and many more. As technologies such as the iPod, lap top, TV, and Smartphone, have been developed people have begun isolating themselves with these devices; favoring technological entertainment over bonding with friends or family members. It is not unusual to walk into a household anymore and find each family member in an individual room, watching television or on the computer. This not only decreases familial interactions, which are vital for a child’s development, but also makes parents less aware of their children’s lives outside of the home. Traditions of dining together, sharing games, or experiences together, are fading into the past.

Additionally, a large portion of interaction now occurs online. Online communication is a phenomenal tool. However, people are beginning to use it when they don’t need to. Meeting someone personally can never replace online chatting. Before these devices existed, people would more often, personally converse with each other, play games with one another, and explore the outdoors. But now, people have drifted apart, delving into the luxuries of mass entertainment, which provide no emotional response or companionship. This technological entertainment is not real.

Some people are failing to understand this. I recommend the illustrious movie, Bowling for Columbine, by Michael Moore. It follows the story of the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, Colorado, United States, where two boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, shot 13 students and injured 21 others at their school. U.S psychologist, Jerald Block, explained that these boys had become immersed in violent video games, which motivated them to commit these assaults. This story, although extreme, is a wake up call and a profound testimony to the subtle effects technology is having on us.

Technology is also having harmful effects on our health. It has hugely contributed to the obesity epidemic, particularly child obesity. In the past 25 years obesity rates in children have almost tripled. Approximately 26%of children between the ages of 2-17 are considered overweight or obese[1]. Yes, people today eat very unhealthy foods and in larger portions, but technology has served as the catalyst to this epidemic.

As a team of economists, David Cutler, Edward Glaeser, and Jesse Shapiro, from Harvard University stated, “advances in technology have made food more varied and convenient, so much so that our rather feeble will-power is unable to cope with the temptation.”[2] You can order food with a push of a button on your cell phone or computer, and pick up a fully cooked meal in less then five minutes.

Technology has encouraged an inactive lifestyle. Humans have begun to fall into the trance of a sluggish lifestyle; working, eating, watching TV, and sleeping. No wonder depression, low self esteems, and other mental ailments have arisen. It’s been proven statistically that people who watch television have lower self-esteems then people who don’t.[3] Many people are not disciplined enough to handle the luxurious catered in this generation’s lifestyle. A health movement has become prevalent and exercise is strongly encouraged at schools and by the government. But, to what extent is this effective? The most effective way of resolving this issue is to dive to the root problem; redesign technology to include health benefits. Some corporations have already jumped on this boat, creating the Wii, exercise machines with TV’s, and many other technologies.

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If we continue to redesign technology and discipline ourselves to lead healthier lifestyles we could make these statistics history.

Our environment’s is under a threat; our ozone layer is fading, our air and water are becoming more polluted, and pesticides are poisoning our food. Our productions of halogens have vastly augmented the depletion of our ozone layer. The largest cause of ozone depletion is CFC (chlorofluorocarbon), which is a man-made chemical made of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine atoms. They are used in appliances such as fire extinguishers, refrigerators, and aerosol cans. They account for 80% of ozone depletion; the other 20% is accounted for by other man-made halogens.[4] The increase in air pollution has introduced new problems for the earth including globe warming, acid rain, temperature inversion[5], smog, and human health hazards such as respiratory problems.

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Recently I was reading the an article on Science Daily; I began to read about a study on children in The United State’s largest cities; Boston, the Bronx, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Seattle and Tucson. The results of the study were appalling. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Inner-City Asthma Study (ICAS), sampled 861 children aged 5 to 12 years with asthma. They found that, “children had significantly decreased lung function following exposure to higher concentrations of the air pollutants sulfur dioxide, airborne fine particles, and nitrogen dioxide.”[6] Programs to better the environment have been implemented.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency, which is part of the U.S Government, has attempted to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They enforce and monitor many acts such as the Air Pollution Control Act, Water Quality Act, Food Quality Protection Act, and several others. After the implication of the Air Pollution Control Act, in 1999, pollution has shown a significant decrease,[7] Recycling programs have also become more prevalent; we are currently even recycling technological devices.

However, if we truly want to be successful we need to reengineer the machines that are causing the damage in the first place. This idea has slowly begun sprouting through the invention of the smart car, friendly scooters, solar panels, and other devices. But to what extent are they effective when countless factories are still continuing to produce millions of harmful mobiles?

The purpose of this article is not to complain about modern technology; rather, I’m intending to highlight the negative effects it is having on us. Technology has been tremendously beneficial to our world. However, we must not be passive and dismiss the negative effects. These new growing problems that society is encountering need to be identified and harnessed. Initiative has been taken in some respects. Even so,  more effort should be made to promote healthier lifestyles and most importantly, certain technologies need to be reengineered to decrease their negative effects. Many people fail to realize that technology is the root cause of many of our modern troubles; if we revise and redesign our technologies, many of these troubles will perish.


[1] Hub Facts- Childhood Obesity: What are the facts?

[2] World Health Net- Technology is the Cause of Obesity. http://www.worldhealth.net/news/technology_is_cause_of_obesity_say_harva/.

[3] Dr.Petra Boynton. http://www.drpetra.co.uk/blog/too-much-tv-low-self-esteem-and-a-bad-relationship-with-your-folks-a-recipe-for-early-teen-sex-but-not-apparently-a-life-of-deliquency/.

[4] Causes of Ozone Depletion: http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/ozone_depletion/older/causes.html.

[5] Inversion: when pollution cannot rise and be dispersed and thus cities surrounded by mountains also experience trapping of pollution

[6] Science Daily.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080415185019.htm.

[7] Science Daily: What’s in our air?  http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/0511-whats_in_our_air.htm.

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is rhe communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). Its Executive editor is Jim Luce, with Nigel Roberts Managing Director, John Lee as Culture & Lifestyle Editor, and Jeremy Hu Executive Director. There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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